ROCKLAND — Forty-six people turned out Tuesday evening, May 24 to overwhelmingly approve a $35.3 million Regional School Unit 13 budget for 2022-2023.

The budget now goes to the final step — a yes or no vote at the polls on June 14 in Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.

The districtwide budget meeting lasted for nearly two hours at the Oceanside High School auditorium. The vote for the overall budget was approved by a 36 to 10 vote.

Most of the individual articles were supported nearly unanimously, with board members Maria Devery of Owls Head and David Martz voting no on many of the articles. Board members were among the 46 people who were in attendance and voted.

The article that garnered the most debate was the one which included the addition of a second assistant principal at Oceanside High School. A motion by a resident to cut $120,000 from the article in an effort to prevent the creation of the additional position failed with 12 residents agreeing with the proposed cut.

Superintendent John McDonald said the number of referrals of students with behavioral, disciplinary, an academic issues to the high school administration during the current school year has exceeded the combined number of referrals of the past three years combined.

A couple people in attendance said another guidance counselor should be hired rather than an assistant principal but staff members said a guidance counselor or social worker would not be able to hand out discipline, especially when a student needs to removed from class.

The overall budget was set at $35.3 million, an increase in spending of 6.8% ($2,272,100).

Additional revenue, however, will limit the increase in property taxes needed from the communities to 3.3%. The impact on the individual communities will vary sharply because of the state funding formula which is based largely on the state valuation of municipalities with the higher valued communities receiving less aid.

Superintendent McDonald said the increase in RSU 13 was less than other districts in the region, pointing out that his community in Waldo County was seeing a double digit increase. He said the RSU 13 budget was fair and equitable.

“We know fuel prices are up, we know groceries are going up, rents are going up,” McDonald said.

Rockland would pay an additional $302,900, a 2.8% increase. Owls Head would see the largest percentage increase (9.4%) with a $357,500 hike. Thomaston would pay $85,900 more (1.8%). South Thomaston would pay $109,500 more (3.2%). And Cushing would see an increase of $28,800 (2.8%).

Business Manager Peter Orne has pointed out nearly $2 million of the $2.27 million increase is due to increased pay and benefits which are negotiated in labor contracts. Another $200,000 of the increase is due to higher energy costs.

Annual inflation is running at about 8%.

The residents unanimously approved the Mid-Coast School of Technology budget which is voted on by each of the school districts that sends students to the career and technical education center.

Photo by Stephen Betts